Talk about casting the net wide. Scotland’s striker problems could be solved by a rugby league fan from Queensland who didn’t start playing football until he was a teenager.
Lyndon Dykes has been unearthed as eligible for the Scotland national side. Or at least he has unearthed himself. Even his own manager Gary Holt was unaware until Sunday morning that he qualified for Scotland. After his goal and outstanding performance in Livingston’s 2-0 win over Celtic that afternoon, it was all anyone was talking about.
Is someone who spent his childhood in Gold Coast and whose accent contains few hints of a Solway lilt – his mother and father are from Dumfries and Galloway – willing to throw his lot in with Scotland, perennial underachievers on the international stage? “I’m not sure,” Dykes, who turned 24 yesterday, said. “I grew up in Australia so probably Australia if both of them came. But it’s hard. If Scotland came and Australia didn’t come then obviously I would like to play for Scotland. My parents are Scottish. I would have to see if I ever got the opportunity.”
He has given himself a fighting chance with a headline-stealing performance against Celtic. He picked the right time and the right place. Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager, was present at the Tony Macaroni Stadium to see Dykes give the Celtic defence a torrid time of it. Clarke has proved himself willing to consider all options. He has dipped into the Championship to call up Dundee United’s Lawence Shankland for the current squad. Dykes himself was playing in the second tier not so long ago, at Queen of the South.
He hasn’t played at any national level for Australia other than schoolboy, so he is far from ingrained in their system. He claims not even to have been a big football fan while growing up at home. He is therefore no respecter of reputation.
Rangers, Celtic, it means little to him, other than a chance to show what he can do. He caught the eye in a narrow 1-0 defeat by Steven Gerrard’s side in a Betfred Cup tie last month that was shown live on television and did so again on Sunday against the champions, this time with a better outcome for him and his teammates.
He is unaffected by all the sudden attention and isn’t one for exchanging shirts with opposition players.
“When kids have supported big teams they are all nervous when they play against them,” he reflected. “I just go into any game in any league in any division with the same mindset – I just want to score some goals and do my best for the team.”
“To be honest, I didn’t really watch much football,” he added “I played a lot of sport so I was never really into football that much. Even when I did play. I have only just started watching a bit more of the English Premier League and highlights here and there to study players and help my game. Supporting-wise I don’t really have anyone to be honest. I was rugby league when I was younger. I started football when I was around 12 or 13.”
As was underlined from Sunday’s battle with opposite man Christopher Jullien, he likes the rough and tumble. He was even temporarily paralysed during his rugby league playing days. He dismisses this now as if talking about a grazed knee.
“It was just a brief thing,” he said. “It is one of those things when you play rugby. I tackled a boy and he landed on me. I was fine, but by the night I couldn’t move. I ended up in hospital. Maybe it was a nerve, I don’t know.”
He was perpetual motion on Sunday and stood out for more than just his recently re-dyed silver hair-do. His artful lob in the 74th minute secured a famous win for Livingston and was his fourth goal in six games. Dykes gestured to goalkeeper Matija Sarkic to send a long free-kick down the line. “It bounced nicely for me,” he recalled. “I saw Fraser (Forster) off his line and I thought: ‘I am going to try to chip him here’. Luckily, I hit it high enough to get over him.”